EXPLOSIVE Samoan wing Paul Perez looks set to make a dramatic return to South Africa to play for the EP Kings in this year’s Currie Cup Premier Division.
Rugby insiders hinted yesterday that the 27-year-old speedster will be arriving in Port Elizabeth shortly to start a conditioning phase ahead of the Kings’ opening match against Western Province in August.
Big and powerful and weighing in at 102 kilograms, Perez will add extra thrust to the Kings’ backline as they bid to make an impact as they return to the top flight after a 12-year absence.
In 20 matches for the Kings Perez scored 55 points and proved a big crowd favourite with fans at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after first arriving to play for Eastern Province in 2010.
Perez’s try-scoring ability, coupled with his ability to burst through tackles and give his team front foot momentum, ensured that there was always a buzz around the NMB Stadium when the Samoan got his hands on the ball.
He has been troubled by his right knee recently, but reports indicate that a recent operation proved to be a 100% success and that his condition will be assessed once he arrives.
The expected arrival of Perez means that the Kings will be able to call on two explosive men out wide with big things also expected of teen star Sergeal Petersen who made a big impact in Super Rugby last year.
Since it was announced that the Kings would be playing in an enlarged Currie Cup Premier Division, they have slowly been bolstering their squad.
There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes with Kings president Cheeky Watson and chief executive Charl Crous working overtime to ensure that the Kings are ready for their fiery Currie Cup baptism.
It has already been confirmed that hooker Michael van Vuuren (Stade Francais), Izak van der Westhuizen (Edinburgh) and Tim Whitehead and Hansie Graaff (both Sharks) will all be joining the Kings over the coming months.
Currie Cup head coach Carlos Spencer has been working with the Kings high performance squad for the past few weeks as they bid to reach peak physical fitness.
Because the elite players are in a conditioning phase they have made only limited apperances for the Kings in the Vodacom Cup this year.
The Kings, however, have rolled out several big guns for theirkey Vodacom Cup match against a Free State 15 in Cradock on Saturday.
No fewer than six changes have been made to the starting line-up that slumped to a heavy 56-22 defeat against Western Province in Cape Town on Saturday.
For the Cradock showdown the Kings will have a new halfback pairing of scrumhalf Jaco Grobler and flyhalf George Whitehead, who featured for the Southern Kings earlier this year in the Super Rugby friendlies.
Speedy wing Petersen has also been called up to the starting line-up while lock Rynier Brenardo returns after being given off last weekend to attend a wedding. – George Byron